There's "no plan" in place currently to bring back any statewide mitigations to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois as cases continue to rise and experts warn about the more transmissible delta variant, state health officials said Friday.
"Restore Illinois mitigations that were enacted during the height of the pandemic allowed for safe and proven infection prevention measures since no vaccine was available," an Illinois Department of Public Health spokesman said in a statement.
"Currently there is no plan to implement any additional statewide mitigations now that there is an abundance of vaccine available and accessible across Illinois, but local municipalities continue to have the ability to put more stringent mitigations in place in their communities," the statement continued. "We encourage all Illinoisans ages 12+ to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The COVID-19 vaccines are a proven and effective measure of protection against a deadly virus that has taken the lives of thousands of Illinoisans."
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 4,449 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 62 additional deaths and more than 148,000 new vaccine doses administered - all three metrics higher than the numbers reported the week before.
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The state’s seven-day rolling positivity rate on all tests also rose to 1.9% from 1.5% the week before, and the seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested increased from 1.7% to 2.3%, officials said.
IDPH said there was no plan to implement additional mitigations as some municipalities and governments have chosen to bring back things like indoor mask mandates.
Public health officials in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation, announced this week that they will reinstate the county's indoor mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status beginning late Saturday.
That change was sparked by the spread of the delta variant, officials said, weeks after federal health officials released updated guidance that dropped masking requirements for those who are fully vaccinated.
“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late given what we’re seeing now,” LA County's health officer said Thursday during a news briefing. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment."
In Cook County, officials warned Thursday that cases of the delta coronavirus variant are surging, asking residents who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots in an effort to prevent spread.
"The variant continues to surge and while research suggests that vaccinated individuals are generally protected, we know that there are still large segments of our population that are unvaccinated and high risk this infectious variant," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said during a coronavirus update alongside health officials.
It's a trend being reported across the state in recent weeks, particularly in parts of the state that have lower vaccination rates.
"There is a very clear connection between where those case rates are growing the fastest and how well that area is vaccinated, i.e. the more highly vaccinated areas are having lower case rates," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in an interview Tuesday.
She noted that the growing delta variant has a higher transmissibility that impacts more people at a time than previous variants. Within weeks, Ezike said Illinois has seen COVID cases double statewide.
Studies have shown that the delta variant spreads approximately 225% faster than the original strain of the virus. Studies have also shown that once a person catches the delta variant, they likely become infectious sooner, and that the virus grows more rapidly inside a person’s respiratory tract.
Areas of western and southern Illinois are seeing increases in positivity rates and coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent weeks, continuing a recent trend that’s seeing COVID metrics slowly on the rise in many areas, particularly those bordering Missouri.
As the delta variant continues to spread, experts are continuing to push for more Americans to get the COVID vaccine. All three of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA, have shown to be largely effective against preventing serious illness and death due to COVID, and all three companies say that their vaccines are showing promise in preventing those outcomes with the delta variant as well.